Policy Briefs Books Journals

Climate Change and Conflict Policy Brief  No.36 - March, 2019 • By Kate Higgins and Josiah Maesua

Climate change, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Solomon Islands

This paper considers the conflict impacts of climate change and outlines potential opportunities for peacebuilding in Solomon Islands, a small independent state in the region of Oceania. Climate change is not viewed here as a standalone issue but as an embedded dimension of contemporary environmental, political, social, economic, and cosmological/spiritual settings.

While care must be taken not to make direct links between climate change and conflict in Solomon Islands, this paper identifies three potential climate change-related conflict issues:

  1. Climate change is impacting upon the environment in which people’s identity and sense of well-being is centred. Identity and place-based histories are deeply connected to local geographical spaces and mechanisms which maintain continuity through time and which prevent or resolve conflict. Environmental impacts of climate change are likely to exacerbate existing conflict drivers and impact upon the capacity of communities to manage localised forms of conflict.
  2. External forms of project intervention at community level are a common cause of conflict. There is a risk that climate change adaptation projects are having, or will have, the same effect. The paper points to the need for conflict sensitive climatechange adaptation strategies which understand localised power-relations, take the time to work with local capacities while avoiding creating dependency on outside ‘experts’.
  3. There is the potential for climate change to contribute to the displacement and relocation of people from their island homes. This is a dynamic which may increase conflict over the longer-term, particularly in urban informal and ‘illegal’ settlements.

The overarching recommendation of this paper is that any meaningful engagement with the challenges of climate change and conflict in Solomon Islands must be firmly grounded within localised Solomon Islands worldviews which encompass people’s physical, economic, political, social, and cosmological worlds while paying attention to local understandings and ways of building peace.

This paper also recommends working with existing formal and informal institutions, developing conflict-sensitive climate-change adaptation approaches, identifying places where dislocation and resettlement is occurring and conducting participatory conflict analysis, and focusing on the problematic relationship between the state and communities when addressing conflict so as to centre peacebuilding approaches in community understandings of what constitutes peace and justice.

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